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Sunset Park

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sunset Park

Starring: Rhea Perlman, Fredro Starr
Director: Steve Gomer
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: April 1996
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Carol Kane, Terrence DaShon Howard, De'Aundre Bonds, James Harris, Anthony Hall, Camille Saviola, Antwon Tanner, Shawn Michael Howard

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

In SUNSET PARK, Phyllis Saroka (Rhea Perlman) plays the canonical role of the basketball coach who takes a bunch of athletic losers from the ghetto and turns them into winners. You think you have already seen this film a dozen times? Well, you probably have. This film is pure formula from beginning to end.

Like all producers (Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Dan Paulson) who want to cash in on a formula, they get the director (Steve Gomer) and the writers (Kathleen McGhee Anderson, and Seth Zvi Rosenfeld) to try to introduce some twists on quintessential themes in order to fool the audience into thinking their material is fresh.

SUNSET PARK's lone new idea is that teacher Saroka agrees to take on the basketball team just as their season starts. The reason is totally pecuniary since she knows nothing at all about basketball. How does she learn? Why she goes to the public library of course. When that isn't enough she tells her team, "if you'll show me some stuff about basketball, I'll show you some stuff about winning." What a trite script.

Every member of the basketball team has some cute nickname. There is Shorty (Fredro Starr), Spaceman (Terrence DaShon Howard), Big Butter (James Harris) and Busy-Bee (De'Aundre Bonds) among others. They aren't much interested in basketball, but they do like to impress the girls and to smoke dope in the locker room. They have no respect for authority and totally ignore Coach Saroka in the first part of the picture. Imagine a practice where the kids just dribble, shot as they like, and literally not doing anything their coach asks. They actually turn their back on her and do not listen to her at all.

Eventually of course, and soon after the obligatory scene where someone is shot which serves make the kids wake up, they begin to respect their new coach and even start to win some. You can probably write the rest of the picture yourself.

In a vast wasteland, there is something special about the show. The performance by Rhea Perlman manages to stand out in a pedestrian script with plodding direction. I have never thought of her as having much talent, but she does shine through this pool of sludge. I think some of the actors on the basketball team may have some acting ability, but their parts were such caricatures, that it is hard to say with any degree of confidence.

SUNSET PARK runs on and on at 1:40. It is rated R for bad language and for drug usage among teenagers shown as being a cool way to pass the time when you are bored. I would be happy if teenagers would pass on this show, but I guess it would be okay for mature ones. Actually, I think the intended demographics for the show is probably males between the ages of 13 and 18. I found nothing new here other than a fine performance by Perlman so I am giving the film a thumbs down and awarding it * 1/2.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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